2017 BMW G310R First Ride Review

Troy Siahaan
by Troy Siahaan

BMW gets serious about the entry-level market

If you’re wondering how important the small-displacement segment is to BMW, here’s a figure to chew on: Edgar Heinrich, BMW Motorrad’s Head of Design, estimates, on a global scale, its current model lineup, excluding the G310R, appeals to approximately one million motorcycle shoppers. This means motorcycle consumers are buying bikes in segments BMW currently is present in. That includes everything from the G650GS on the low end, all the way to the K1600GTL at the other extreme.

2017 BMW G310R

Editor Score: 87.5%
Engine 18.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.5/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 9.0/10
Appearance/Quality 8.5/10
Desirability 8.0/10
Value 9.0/10
Overall Score87.5/100

Add in the G310R and BMW says its potential motorcycle audience has now doubled in size: two million people. All thanks to one motorcycle. That’s how important the G310R is to BMW. Further driving home the 310R’s importance was the sheer number of people on the BMW payroll in attendance at the model’s international press launch in Hollywood, California; both from BMW North America’s New Jersey HQ, but also from the motherland in Deutschland. Clearly, there’s a lot riding on this new Beemer.

A Little Backstory

It’s been more than a year since we first broke the news about BMW’s G310R, and since it’s been awhile, here’s the pertinent info again: It’s powered by a 313cc fuel-injected, DOHC, four-valve Single, with bore and stroke measurements of 80mm x 62mm, respectively. Compression ratio is a modest 10.6:1. What makes the 310R unique is its reversed cylinder-head arrangement – its intake faces forward, with the exhaust pointed towards the rear. The entire engine is tilted backwards slightly, allowing it to be placed as far forward in the steel-tube frame as possible. BMW claims 34 hp and 21 lb-ft of torque at the crank, with an impressive claim of 71 miles per gallon (though we weren’t able to verify this ourselves).

The G310R may be manufactured in India, but TVS Motor Company has a very close working relationship with BMW. There’s a dedicated production line within the TVS facility strictly for the G310, with assembly-line workers trained by BMW.

BMW’s hoping the little G310 will capture the hearts of future S1000R riders, and with a base price of $4750 – $249 less than the KTM 390 Duke but $601 more than the Honda CB300F – it seems poised to do just that. It’s pretty big news in itself that BMW is finally entering the entry-level market, but not to be forgotten is the fact the G310R will be manufactured in India with help from the TVS Motor Company (though it should be stressed the 310R was designed and engineered in Germany). We shouldn’t be surprised, as KTM’s 390 Duke is made in India with help from Bajaj, and numerous other OEMs are shifting manufacturing of their small-displacement bikes to other countries to drive down costs.

In the process of patiently waiting for our chance to ride the G310R, we decided to throw it in a virtual test, including it in a spec sheet shootout with competitors like the KTM 390 Duke, Suzuki GW250Z, Honda CB300F, CB500F, as well as the Kawasaki Z300 and Yamaha MT-03 – two bikes we thought for sure would be on U.S. soil by now but are still conspicuously absent. On paper, the BMW looks every bit a match for its contemporaries, but we couldn’t know for sure until we threw a leg over one. It’s been a long time coming, but that opportunity has finally arrived.

If one day you take this turn on a G310R, BMW’s hoping you ’ll come back another day on a S1000R.

Beginner Bikes, The BMW Way

While small-displacement motorcycles are typically aimed at new or otherwise inexperienced riders, BMW also wanted to attract the attention of those with plenty of miles under their belts looking for another bike to add to their collection – say, to commute with, run errands on, or even to play in the canyons. In short, the G310R achieves all of these goals.

Sitting on it, the 30.9-inch saddle height doesn’t intimidate, and the slim tank/seat junction make it extremely easy for someone of my 30-inch inseam to flat-foot the ground. Still, taller or shorter riders will be happy to know accessory seats will be available, raising the seat height to 31.5 inches on the high end and 30.3 inches on the low end. Weighing in at a claimed 349.4 lbs, the little G feels almost toy-like between the legs. Seating position skews more upright, with only a slight bend forward and pegs aren’t too high up, either. What’s really impressive is how narrow the bike feels between the knees – almost as if you can touch your kneecaps together. BMW wants you to know there’s nothing to be afraid of with this bike.

It’s a short reach to the ground with the standard seat, though taller or shorter ones are also available. Making it particularly easy to touch the ground is the narrow tank/seat junction. Note also the brake light and plate holder. It’s cantilevered from the tail section and shakes quite a bit when riding over rough roads. It’s perhaps the only portion of the bike that seems even remotely like an afterthought.

Once underway, that easygoing theme continues. Power delivery from the 313cc Single is smooth and gentle, with power meted to the rear tire via a cable-operated throttle. The wrist has to twist a long way to reach full throttle, but it’s likely a good thing considering potential ham-fisted noobs the bike is aimed at.

BMW’s 313cc Single powering the G310R breaks from tradition and has its cylinder head spun 180º compared to traditional single-cylinders. It’s also small, compact, and wedged as far forward as possible for better weight distribution.

Thirty-four horsepower isn’t much to work with, and its initial power delivery is slightly dull, but once past 4,000 rpm the 310R has an impressive amount of scoot for its size, continuing up to its 10,000-rpm redline. Vibration – or lack thereof – is hugely impressive from the counterbalanced Single. At freeway cruising speeds there’s almost zero buzzing felt in the hands or feet. Even at redline the vibration is very muted. Oddly, the most vibes I felt was between the seat/tank junction, conveniently placed to tickle the nether regions…

Clutch pull is light, too, making it easier to modulate when leaving a stop or especially when negotiating traffic. Good, too, since the lever isn’t adjustable (neither is the brake lever). In typical BMW fashion, shift throws are very short and positive, making it easy to shift up the gears with or without the clutch. The first three gears feel closely spaced together, with fourth gear a nice place to be most the time. Freeway speeds are easily attained, and despite its size the BMW doesn’t feel vulnerable cruising along at 80 mph, unlike some other small bikes. Sixth gear and 7000 rpm will have you cruising along at 70 mph.

There’s no quickshifter here, so changing down the gears is done the old-fashioned way, with the clutch. Finding neutral was an issue at times, but that might be because the units we were riding had less than 400 miles on the clock. Time and more miles will tell if neutral will become easier to find.

A clean, clear, and crisp LCD instrument cluster is fitted to the G310R and is even easy to see in direct sunlight. It provides all the necessary information, including a big gear-position indicator, fuel gauge, and speedometer. The tach is a bit hard to read at a glance, but the engine is usually spinning so high anyway you can just shift by ear.

The G310R gets its styling inspiration from the S1000R naked streetfigher, and it even acts like one in the canyons. Without much power “You have to earn every corner,” says Heinrich. A 41mm Kayaba inverted fork is non-adjustable but is well damped for both canyon riding and average commuting. Together with the steel tubular frame, aluminum swingarm, and preload-adjustable shock, the 310R handles a twisty road with ease. The bars give good leverage to throw the bike into corners, and both ends never seemed fazed by the spirited pace we were flicking in either direction.

If anything, the Michelin Pilot Street Radial tires (110/70-17 front, 150/60-17 rear) were the weak point, the front never truly feeling planted, and both ends giving a small slide during one particular photo pass. In fairness, it was a relatively cold day and it’s possible the cold pavement didn’t jibe with the cold tires. BMW reps on hand said the 310R will be available with either Michelins, Metzelers or Bridgestones depending on the market, but it hadn’t yet been finalized which tires we’d be getting in the U.S.

Being a world model, the G310R’s suspension was tuned to meet the demands of some of the toughest roads… in Brazil. BMW tell us Brazil has some of the worst roads in the world, so if suspension components can survive that locale, U.S. roads are easy.

Also, the G felt just a tad slower to turn than I remember from the KTM 390 Duke. My brain could be playing tricks with me, however, as the geometry measurements are almost identical between the two. The BMW has slightly more rake (25.1º vs. 25.0º on the KTM), slightly more trail (4.0 inches vs. 3.9 inches), a longer wheelbase (54.1 inches vs. 53.8 inches), and weighs a paltry four pounds more than the Austrian.

When it comes to stopping power, the BMW isn’t lacking. A single 300mm disc is clamped by a radial-mount ByBre four-piston caliper in front, with a 240mm disc and two-piston caliper out back. ABS is standard. A similar stopping system is found on the 390 Duke, and while we had complaints of a soft lever and mediocre brakes on the KTM, there’s no such issues on the BMW. Braking power is strong but not overpowering, with decent feel at the lever. If anything, ABS intervenes too soon. But that’s coming from the perspective of an experienced rider.

The Path Towards World Domination

By all accounts, the BMW G310R is hugely impressive. It’s a comfortable, non-intimidating scoot for the new rider, but it’s also a hoot for the experienced veteran. It’ll easily handle commuter duties, especially with the selection of top cases available in the BMW accessories catalog, but is also fun if you feel like harassing sportbike riders on tight, twisty roads. And the fact it’s so smooth and refined belies its modest $4750 price tag.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to the small-displacement category. Now you can add one more: The BMW G310R.

During his speech, Heinrich mentioned that BMW wants to sell 200,000 motorcycles by the year 2020, and that this is only possible if the company “attacked different markets.” We’ve already started to see the fruits of this strategy with the S1000 and RnineT lines, and now new doors are opening with this, the G310R. Don’t be fooled by its low price point and where it’s made, as it’s still every bit a BMW in terms of fit, finish, and quality. And unlike some other small-displacement motorcycles, this isn’t one you’ll get bored with quickly.

Here’s the catch: if you’re interested in one, BMW tells us the G310R won’t be hitting dealerships until late Spring or early Summer 2017. You’ve already been waiting this long for the bike, why not wait a little longer?

2017 BMW G310R

+ Highs

  • Excellent fit and finish
  • Entertaining for new and old riders alike
  • Competitive price point

– Sighs

  • ABS intervenes too soon for experienced riders (and is always on)
  • No heated grips! (It’s an accessory)
  • Still another six months away!

2017 BMW G310R Specifications

Engine Type313cc, liquid-cooled Single w/reverse-cylinder design
Bore and Stroke80.0mm x 62.1mm
Fuel SystemEFI
Compression Ratio10.6:1
Valve TrainDOHC, 4 valves per cylinder
Horsepower34 hp @ 9,500 rpm (claimed)
Torque21 lb-ft @7,500 rpm (claimed)
Final DriveChain
Front Suspension41mm Inverted fork, non-adjustable. 5.5 in. travel
Rear SuspensionSingle shock, preload-adjustable NA. 5.2 in travel
Front Brake300mm single disc, radial-mount 4-piston caliper, ABS standard
Rear Brake240mm single disc, 2-piston caliper, ABS standard
Front Tire110/70-17
Rear Tire150/60-17
Rake/Trail25.1º/4.0 in.
Wheelbase54.1 in
Seat Height30.9 in. (claimed, 30.3 in. and 31.5 in seats optional accessories)
Curb Weight349.4 lbs. (claimed)
Fuel Capacity2.9 gallons
Troy Siahaan
Troy Siahaan

Troy's been riding motorcycles and writing about them since 2006, getting his start at Rider Magazine. From there, he moved to Sport Rider Magazine before finally landing at Motorcycle.com in 2011. A lifelong gearhead who didn't fully immerse himself in motorcycles until his teenage years, Troy's interests have always been in technology, performance, and going fast. Naturally, racing was the perfect avenue to combine all three. Troy has been racing nearly as long as he's been riding and has competed at the AMA national level. He's also won multiple club races throughout the country, culminating in a Utah Sport Bike Association championship in 2011. He has been invited as a guest instructor for the Yamaha Champions Riding School, and when he's not out riding, he's either wrenching on bikes or watching MotoGP.

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3 of 41 comments
  • Nem ertem Nem ertem on Dec 22, 2016

    It's so nice to read that the price is pointed low... I wish I had $5000 in my pocket. (and would go buy aDuke 390, ehhehe).

  • Navinsnap Navinsnap on Jan 03, 2017

    Is this smallest Beemer equipped with Slipper Clutch? from where did you guys got this info? Its been not even available in the spec sheet..

    • TroySiahaan TroySiahaan on Jan 04, 2017

      Good catch. I was given false information during our ride. The G310R does *not* have a slipper clutch. Just a basic multi-plate wet clutch. Story amended. Sorry for any confusion.